Last night Cleveland Mayor Mike White's administration held a public meeting on its proposed Lakefront Development Project. It was one of five such meetings to be held around the Cleveland metropolitan area this week. About 40 Cleveland residents turned out at the Slovenian National home in the city's St. Clair Superior neighborhood. 90.3's Bill Rice was there and filed this report.
Bill Rice- Mayor White publicly announced his lakefront project in August. It received a tepid response, at best from members of city council. This week, the mayor is taking the proposal directly to the people with a series of forums designed to directly guage how citizens feel about it. Rick Faywell, chief architect with the Chicago firm VOA Associates, explained in detail the master plan for development along the waterfront from Burke Lakefront Airport to (Cleveland) Browns Stadium.
Rick Faywell- The key in our mind, and I can't stress this enough, is that from the very beginning and the way we responded to the proposal was to make sure we kept access to the waterfront public, first and foremost that was our intention. What we've presented subsequently are lots of ideas, and you'll see in this proposal a combination of 30 different uses, if you will. If you were to count them up it's approximately 30 that are more or less designed to think more about the activities, of things that people typically want in good public places, in good urban public people places, and specifically on waterfronts.
BR- Those include, among other things, a public marina, a children's museum, retail space, an outdoor entertainment venue, an aquarium, and a ferris wheel. Faywell stressed the family-friendly nature of the plan. After the short presentation came a lengthy public comment period. Reaction was largely critical. Denita Battle, a lifelong Cleveland resident, felt the plan was based too much on a formula.
Denita Battle- I've traveled to Chicago, it looks quite identical to the Chicago plan to me. That's what it looks like to me, especially with this big ferris wheel - that's sitting right there on that - what do you call that, the Navy Pier?
BR- Others echoed that sentiment, saying such a project should better preserve more of Cleveland's industrial heritage. Several people were concerned that the William G. Mather Steamship Museum, legacy of what was once the largest shipping vessel on the Great Lakes, was excluded from plan. Battle voiced another common concern - what's it going to cost taxpayers?
DB- We see the new Jacobs Field and that whole Gateway project, and the taxpayers was left with this whole sin tax issue. I'm concerned about that. What does that mean for me in terms of my property taxes?
BR- Other concerns include not enough green space, trees and other plant life, that the plan is to elaborate, too busy, and that it caters too much to tourists and not enough to Clevelanders. Cab driver Marc Scacco said he thinks the lakefront project represents a case of misplaced priorities.
Marc Scacco- The only way we're really going to get people to come donto this town over a long period of time is to build a state-of-the-art convention center.
BR- Another critic was Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman, the only city councilman in attendance, whom I pulled aside during the public comment period.
Joe Cimperman- We were sold on a bill of goods about the Gateway project, that there were going to be, like, 30,000 jobs and all this other stuff. That hasn't come to fruition. And if there's one thing I've learned in three years as a councilperson in Cleveland, it's that people in Cleveland do not have a short memory. And they do not want to see the promise of this euphoria really to be left in ruins and the idea that what we have right here is basically not for the people of the city of Cleveland.
BR (to JC)- How much do you think that you represent your fellow council members in that opinion?
JC- I think I'm pretty mild. You know, I think if they were here tonight there'd be a lot more yelling, but that's just my colleagues and you know they certainly have a lot of passion and belief about it.
BR- Ken Silliman, Mayor White's executive assistant for development, said the criticism was not unexpected. He said the session accomplished what the mayor had intended.
Ken Silliman- I was extremely pleased with tonight's meeting, because our primary purpose was public participation in the discussion of what kind of lakefront should we have. And as you saw by the audience we had a lot of people here, they all had opinions, and that's what we got tonight.
BR (to KS)- Were you surprised by any of the opinions you heard tonight?
KS- We had some new points that I had not heard before, that I'm now going to take back to Mayor White. So yes, there were probably half a dozen points that were very good points. We'll take them under consideration and look forward to some new ones tomorrow night out at Gunning Recreation Center.
BR- Similar public meetings on the Lakefront Development Project will be held at various locations throughout the week, concluding on Saturday. Bill Rice, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.